2500, boul. de l'Université
Université de Sherbrooke
819.821.8000 extension 62506
The climate change impacts in the Arctic are various, among which we denote an increase in rain-on-snow (ROS) events occurrence. Rain-on-snow events can have very important impacts on the environment, through the formation of ice crusts affecting ungulates grazing conditions by trapping vegetation on the ground. It then becomes inaccessible for herbivores, often for long periods and over large spatial scales, which can lead to massive die-off episodes. Many of these episodes are well-documented, such as the Peary caribou (Rangifer tarandus pearyi) in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago (CAA).
For more than 50 years now, there has been a team of researchers at Environment and Climate Change Canada studying Peary caribou. They have an excellent knowledge of the population dynamics and current status of the species, which has been designated in peril in 2010 by the COSEPAC. This team has recently created a habitat prediction model for the Peary caribou using data from caribou counts and environmental variables, but it doesn’t account for the variability and complexity of the snowpack in the Arctic. The snowpack has a direct influence on food accessibility for the Peary caribou, which can limit individual growth and survival. In the current context where climate change modifies grazing conditions (i.e. densification of the snow cover), it has become necessary to consider the development of a Geographic Information System (GIS) predicting its habitat including snow variables. In the meantime, the team of the Groupe de Recherche Interdisciplinaire sur les Milieux Polaires (GRIMP) of the Université de Sherbrooke has created a tool that allows spatialized simulations of Arctic snow conditions with the SNOWPACK model. However, the spatial resolution of the snow simulations is too coarse to be included in a habitat prediction model.
Hence, the objectives of my project are to (a) develop a GIS tool of spatial modelisation of the snow properties that affect food accessibility for the Peary caribou at 1-km and to (b) predict the habitat quality for Peary caribou in 2100 by coupling snow and climate reanalysis (MERRA) models.